How Ashtanga changed my life… and body
Everyone who knows me, or at least follows my Instagram, knows I am a fitness addict. Since my athletic teenage years, physical activity has been a part of my everyday life. I’ve tried it all - from running to weightlifting and cross fit, and of course different types of body and mind workouts.
My introduction to yoga happened many years ago when a friend of mine started to teach. This was a great excuse to try it and, ever since, I consider myself a true, flexible and strong yogi. At the time, it was more of an addition to my already intense gym sessions. Time passed, my friend left to India and I also have relocated.
Since I no longer had my favorite teacher by my side, but equipped with a gym, I just continued sweating out at the machines, mixing it up with cardio sessions that made my heart jump out and head spinning (yes, I consider sex as a cardio as well). Generally all was going well, except I was struggling with a lack of energy and those two stubborn kilos coming and going as they pleased. Still, I was going strong until I’ve got a burning back pain for which my doctor handed me a long list of painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs, along with a suggestion to forget about the gym for a while.
That’s when I thought of returning to soft yoga and Pilates classes. After a quick sign up to the nearest studio - I was back on track, trying all sorts of yoga styles out there. However, it all still left me unsatisfied for one reason or another. After complaining that “it’s too easy” to my first teacher, she said “girl, you need Ashtanga, find it taught Mysore style and thank me later”.
That very same evening there was Ashtanga on the schedule, so I cheekily swapped my Pilates (still feel like a traitor since I liked my Pilates teacher a lot) for it. And that’s how it all started - our mutual love on the edge of addiction.
At first I was going to the instructor led classes inspired by how challenging it was, seeing more advanced students in the class and impressed by the possibilities of their bodies. I gave up my medicine after just one week of practicing Ashtanga, continuing with physio only. Progress was supported by my therapist’s confirmations at each session: my back was getting better and better.
I remember the first time I have set my alarm for 7 a.m. to get up and attend the weekend class at 8 a.m. (meaning that I also skipped a good party the night before), and the incredible amount of energy I had for the rest of that day. After the second weekend, I signed up for Mysore class.
What is Ashtanga Mysore? It is a traditional way of learning Ashtanga, which is taught as an open class where students come and go at their own time and do independent practice at their own pace. No music, no air conditioner (yeah it gets very stuffy, so another reason to come in first thing in the morning #yogilifehacks). Complete concentration on the practice and breath. The teacher is there to guide you and adjust you when needed, but other than that, you take your own full responsibility for what’s happening on the mat and in your head.
Mysore yoga is a practice that actually starts in your head. In the beginning it is extremely hard to concentrate and to be in the present moment without the mind constantly wandering off. Despite doing meditations for years, only at this practice have I realized how my mind is acting like a happy puppy, jumping around with thoughts and distractions of what's happening on the mat next to me. At Mysore I’ve learned to pick it up and bring my mind back to the mat and be in the “now” moment.
My body was in pain. I mean real pain. Every bit of me, every inch of the skin, every joint, and muscles, that I didn't even know existed, ached. I was waking up each morning telling myself "I'll skip tomorrow", only to find myself eagerly opening the doors to the studio the next morning.
Ashtanga has become part of my life and it has shaped it a lot as well. It has taught me the responsibility for my actions and how to better concentrate on the task I do at the moment. Gave me confidence and faith in my body, teaching how, some things, that seemed absolutely impossible, are now part of my daily routine. Showed me that my body can heal itself, and how my overall well-being improved by giving me enormous amount of energy.
Yoga teaches you to be mindful and gentle to yourself, because your ego will always run ahead and push you to go harder, but then your body sends you signals, sometimes in a form of minor pain and if needed in a form of a proper injury, when you need to step down on your practice and actually learn to listen to your body. This is a very conscious practice, at the same time resurfacing your subconscious.
Today, I have forgotten my way to nightclubs and late night drinks out. Going out to meet my friends I try to be in bed by midnight, so that I do not miss my morning practice. Even when traveling 2-3 times a month, I still wake up early and do a quick practice in the hotel room.
I noticed that I became more organized with my thoughts. The mind has a tighter grip on focus, both inside and outside of work environment. I'm generally calmer, but sharper at the same time. Neither my boss nor I can complain about these noticeable improvements.
My body has finally gave up on those stubborn couple of kilos, my skin became extremely silky without any body lotion needed, and yes, I forgot what cellulite looks like. I sleep less but better, I eat healthier and lighter meals, and not craving for anything heavy anymore.
Ashtanga Mysore is my personal drug that I don’t mind being addicted to. I love how it advances my life and creates overall positive vibe. It is still a long way for me to go to the next advanced level, but I cherish every morning on my way to it.